I’d like to think that when you speak to me, you can’t help but feel welcomed.  My infectious laughter and bright smile offer all of the comforts associated with your favorite uncle.  Rich in cultural diversity, I represent the union of both Trinidadian and Venezuelan heritage, a lineage and history I fully embrace and acknowledge.

I’m Omari Ross, and this is my Crystal Stair.

Having traveled to 34 countries, most recently to Australia for 20 days, I reflected a bit and thought about the unique worldview I’ve been able to develop, something not too common with most young black men my age (I’m 22).  I thought I’d share my top 3 personal takeaways of being a black man abroad:

  1. Racism takes place in every country and manifests itself in different ways.
  2. Black people have found a way to stick together or acknowledge one another in any country.
  3. There has been a prevalent case of erroneous digestion and subsequent misguided regurgitation of black culture, specifically surrounding the use and commercialization of the n-word.

Traveling has taught me patience, adaptability, and has made me more open-minded.  It’s taught me lessons that I’d never known I needed to learn.

However, I wanted to bring your attention to my own personal and familial battles with mental health…a topic often discredited in the African-American community.

My sophomore year at Babson College, both my best friend and twin brother (who was attending on a full scholarship) dropped out of college.  It was if two major pillars fell from beneath me, my immediate support system disappeared at a time when collegial support is most needed for students across the country.  Coupled with the hospitalization of my grandmother, who served as the matriarch of the family and my own personal voice of reason, stressors began to build in my life.  I looked for ways to alleviate the stress.  Honestly, dropping out didn’t seem too far-fetched to me.

But then something clicked…

Omari, I’d told myself, you can’t throw this away, you have to make it happen.  I was moving too fast during these periods in my life and I wasn’t giving myself time to reflect.

I’d been fortunate enough to have been named a Posse Scholar, which helped fully fund my college education, and subsequently, the Network of Posse Scholars became my family and support away from home.  My specific cohort, Babson Posse 11, was the shoulder I could cry on as well as the individuals I could genuinely talk to instead of keeping my troubles bottled up.

Additionally, my Posse Mentor Kevin Beuyneel, a professor at Babson, acted as my on-campus father figure to help me always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Guys…remember to always give yourself room to breathe, pause and reflect.

My story, I feel, is one of immense resilience, self-adjustment and self-care.  I’m a living testament of what it means to be in control of what you can control and reap the reward of taking the road less traveled.  Mental health issues manifest themselves in different ways for different people, and in battling and persevering through it, while it sometimes may feel lonely, it gives you a deeper, introspective sense of self and appreciation for the support system around you.

As a serial entrepreneur and New York-based PwC consultant, I have my eyes set on real estate ownership, particularly properties in underserved minority communities around New York…and of course, collecting more stamps on my passport!

I’m just getting started and I’m stronger than ever.